Print Diary – July 23, 2015 – The Orphaned Swans and the Lost Mobius Strip

One of the things I started designing this summer was for my cousin’s wedding. Like me, he is a computer programmer and like my husband and I, his nuptials also celebrated geek culture. Need proof? Final Fantasy was part of his wedding music and he wore Star Wars crocs during the ceremony.

I had tossed around numerous projects. His wedding was in held in The National Aviary. I love “Hearts in Nature” and have seen stunning photographs of two swans making a heart. It seemed like a perfect thing. I pulled up my Blender and started modeling my swans. My process was very similar to what you would find in
Jjannaway3D’s Modeling A Velociraptor in Blender Series.

3D Modeling - Swan

And then… I had a tough question… “Okay, now what do I make out of these swans?” Napkin rings (and the swans did look great curved)? Napkin holder? Hook for oven mitts?

Then I thought, “Oh, he’s into computers, how about I make them into a USB/Sandisk holder.” But then I closed my eyes and really tried to picture my cousin with these swans on his desk. I just couldn’t see it. I loved the swans– I was happy with where they were going, but they no longer seemed to be a good fit.

What *did* seem to be a good fit was a Möbius Strip. And how cool would that be? A Möbius Strip USB holder! *I* want one! My process of modelling the strip itself was very similar to John Malcolm’s Modeling a Mobius Strip Pendant In Blender 2.73. My cross section was a little more stylized (instead of a straight square). After I applied the Bend Simple Distort, I made placeholder cubes for my USB slots (I did that afterwards as I wanted them to retain their measurements and not get distorted during the bend) and voila! I had my model!!!

All along I intended this to be a Shapeways order, but I decided to give it a go on the MakerGear M2. I printed with 0.25 layers and 30% infill in my fabulous new Mint Turquoise Filament from ColorFabb (via PrintedSolid).

Six hours later, I had my print.

I was really digging the print lines on the top. I thought they were neat and added an additional pattern to the mix.

Holy crap, I thought, Maybe this isn’t a Shapeways order!

Mobius USB Holder- Top

Then I turned it over, removed the supports, and looked at where the supports were.

Yikes— Maybe it *is* a Shapeways order

Mobius USB Holder - Bottom (Before Sanding)

Some quick sanding with 120 grit paper, however, changed my mind completely. I didn’t even get to the 220 or 400 grit. After just that first sanding, my husband and I had to concentrate to figure out which was the top and which was the bottom. AMAZING.

“Where are the ‘after’ pictures,” you may ask. “Document your claim!” You may say.

Well, there aren’t any.

I let my kids play with it… outside…in the yard… where there is all this green shrubbery.

They lost it. Three adults scoured the yard and that Mint Turquoise filament has done an excellent job of concealing itself. Interrogations of the two year old and the four year old, “Do you know where Mommy’s green toy is?” was just as much of a dead end. I suspect it’ll be winter before I find it again.

A reprint is in my future (an advantage of 3D printing– you can always print another one). Regarding the reprint, ColorFabb has an amusing suggestion:

Give Up and Use Supports?

I’m a web programmer by trade and back circa 2007 and 2008, Cascading Style Sheets were becoming mainstream… and had their learning curve and their fair share of frustrations. There was a website that poked fun at the struggle of trying to do your page layout entirely by CSS. It was aptly called The site is long gone, but thanks to the Way Back Machine at, I can still share a visual. They recommended after 47 minutes you:


I was reflecting on my support-free bridging efforts with the Elements of Harmony Dice. I knew the print could be done without supports, which is why I kept up my experiments. But I do foresee sometime in the future, there will be a need for me to:


Print Diary – July 19th – July 22nd

Quick order of business– in my print diary posts, settings and strategies are not necessary solid conclusions, just a documentation of what I tried and my observed results.

My programming day job was going to be exceptional busy, so I needed some more hands-off experiments. One of the things I covet with my new hoarding tendencies is a rock tumbler to polish my bronzeFill.

“But we have a rock tumbler,” my husband said. He pointed to a free one we got from our neighbor a few years ago. The one sitting on a book shelf in behind a commemorative Star Trek plate collecting dust. The thing is– it’s for kids and not at all like the fancy rock tumbler in the Barnacules Nerdgasm video. And the barrel is tiny!

But I did just splurge on a whole lot of filament. There was no harm in experimenting with this free, tiny rock tumbler. I did have a project that would fit in the barrel. The Elements of Harmony Di.

I designed it for my favorite Brony‘s birthday this past January. It looks amazing in Shapeways’ Stainless Steel.

Elements of Harmony Die - All Faces

Back in April when I first got the MakerGear M2 I had run through several runs and iterations perfecting the Di in Black PLA. I did end with something I was satisfied with. But I wanted to resurrect the experiments with a couple of changes:

  1. Back then I was concerned with the shininess of the bottom layer and how it looked so different from the rest of the die. I ended up using a raft to give it a similiar texture and feel. Don’t need that anymore. If I’m printing in bronzeFill, it’s all going to shine up. This was also back in the day before I discovered how amazing hairspray and the gluestick is. Another reason I can ditch the raft.
  2. Back then I was using Slic3r. I tend to user Simplify3d nowadays. In my experience, I’ve had better results with bridging with Slic3r than with Simplify3d. So my experiments were an ongoing effort to try to improve my bridging in Simplify3d.

Some odds and ends of the past couple of days.

New Slic3r is Beautiful!
I went ahead and used this as an excuse to download and use the new 1.2.9 version. My impression is positive. The new 3D View is lovely, but I’m most pleased to see the new “Layer” and “Preview” views. The Preview view is of particular interest to me as I like to scrutinize print lines and patterns.

New Slic3r

New Slic3r - Preview

Now, I did end up crashing new Slic3r three or four times. My hypothesis is that I was changing multiple settings in a row while it was trying to regenerate it’s previews. That’s not a conclusion– just a hunch.

Cooling, You Idiot!
I mentioned I have had better luck bridging (and sometimes overhangs) in Slic3r than Simplify3d. A few months ago, I opened both and started scrutinized settings and trying to get my Simplify3d to match my Slic3r results. Because I’m anal, I took screenshots and made notes of the changes and why I tried them. Well, I pulled up Cooling and I made NO changes and I wrote down that I had made no changes.


Back then, I hadn’t realized the extent cooling played a role, specifically in overhangs. I would learn that when I mastered the 3D Hubs Marvin.

I went ahead and made some changes in the Cooling tab:

  • Under Speed Overrides changed Adjust printing speed for layers below from 15 seconds to 30 seconds
  • Under Fan Overrides, I checked Increase fan speed for layers below and changed the seconds from 45 to 60
  • Under Fan Overrides, I checked Bridging fan speed override.

Note– Since my Fan Speed is already 100 for everything after the first layer, I do not expect any change from my Fan Overrides section. (But the settings are in place should I tweak fan settings at a later date).

I have a feeling the Speed Override alone would have made my 3D Hubs Marvin endeavor a whole lot easier. The jury is still out on that, however, as I haven’t tested him out. : )

Simplify3D Bridging Hack
I also have a new version of Simplify3d which I had been hoping would fix a perimeter bridging issue I had noted. Quick tip, if you ever want to see where the Bridging Settings are taking effect set your Bridging Speed SUPER high– like 600%.

Simplify3D - Setting the Bridging Speed Multiplier Super High to See Where It's Taking Effect

Then when you preview your layers, those items are color coded in red and orange. Unfortunately, that revealed that my bridging settings were still not taking effect where I wanted them.

In the case of my dice, I had a lucky workaround. My perimeters of the bottom face were doing okay. It was the infill that was drooping and sagging. There were only two places on the dice considered “Solid Infill”. So I changed my Solid Infill speed to match what I wanted for the Bridging Speed.
Simplify3D - Setting Solid Infill to What I Want the Bridging Speed to Be

And I could see that bottom layer was going to print at a faster “bridge” speed.

Simplify3D - Tricking the Infill Into Bridge Speeds

This doesn’t help with things like the Bridging Extrusion Multiplier, but guess what– in the case of my dice, it was enough! I got my satisfactory results.

P.S. I could have always gone with supports. I was just being stubborn.

So at the end of these experiments– I have a handful of dice to run through our el cheapo rock tumbler. Wish me luck!

Elements of Harmony Dice - BronzeFill Dice and Rock Tumbler

Playing with Shapeways’ CustomMaker Tool

A faux pas I sometimes make is I value my own designs based on how I perceive their complexity. I am continually surprised at how many people delight in the breastfeeding pendant. Now, it did take me months to make, but that was because I was tending to an infant and learning Blender. : ) It’s probably my simplest design… and the one that is purchased most on Shapeways.

This past May, I may have undervalued another design. With graduation season coming up, my Mom suggested we print some little graduation caps for some family friends. I wasn’t too enthused by the items on Thingiverse, so I spent about an hour one Sunday designing my own. I added a little bit of personalization to each cap by adding the graduate’s name on the top. In my mind– pretty simple. Hey, I did it AND ate a waffle at the same time. I didn’t even consider uploading it anywhere.

Grad Cap

But it turned out the little caps were well received, particularly with one high school graduate…whose friends suddenly wanted their own (two days before graduation). I just did not anticipate such a simple design would provoke such interest.

Last week, Shapeways announced a new pilot feature– the CustomMaker. I had set up personalized products before with Shapeways (School Bus Wine Stopper, Cancer Ribbon, Woven Heart Ornament). Previously, it was a fairly involved process where you would set up what variables you wanted to prompt the customer for. The customer would submit those details with the order. You’d manually make the model and upload it back up to fulfill the order.

CustomMaker automates that process– it modifies the model for you. Not only that, it’s much easier to setup and gives the buyer instant previews of how the product will look!

And I had just the model to test out the new feature! So this past Sunday (after eating waffles, it’s our Sunday tradition), I tried my hand at setting it up. It was super easy.

You can add a Text Box and/or an Image Box (where the customer can upload an image) to your model. You get to drag and drop and resize as needed, pick whether you want it engraved or embossed, and you get to pick the size of that detail (I went with 0.5 mm)

Shapeways Customizer

If you have a hard time visualizing or decided between engraving and embossing, you can click on Preview Settings.
Shapeways Customizer- Preview

The top of my graduation cap is angled. I was curious to see what the text would do about that. I was delighted to see the feature was smart enough to angle the text so it was flush with the top of the cap.

Shapeways Customizer - Angles Text

Then you simply Save Changes are you are ready! When the customer comes to my graduation cap page, he/she can fill in the text and the preview on the screen refreshes right away. With CustomMaker, the guess work is eliminated. The customer has an immediate feel for what he/she is ordering.

I went ahead and ordered one to try it out. It turns out, there was one very special grad I overlooked in June. I owe him a gift card… and a little cap to boot.

Shapeways - Customizer - Ordering

Wanna Learn More?
Check out Shapeways’ Getting Started with Custom Maker Tool Tutorial

This is How I Become A Hoarder

So I’m not much of a shopper. I rarely buy clothes. I’m typically at the mercy of whatever garments various relatives give me as gifts. Luckily, I have found they tend to have better taste than I. All my nice clothes come from other people.

When I started 3D modeling and 3D printing, there was a bit of a paradigm shift. Suddenly I had things I coveted– prints from Shapeways… of my own design. And now that we have the MakerGear M2, there is a new phylum of purchases in the mix.


I’m really into filament at the moment. At the National Maker Faire, I was helping out the Shapeways booth and it just so happened Printed Solid was nearby with the bronzeFill I had been coveting…on sale…with no shipping fees. I bought it, just in time to print a bust of my father-in-law for Father’s Day. I was instantly in love with the material.

My fate was further sealed when I learned to do two colored prints on our single extruder machine.

Well now I wanted MORE colors for the ideas brewing in my head. And as luck would have it, Printed Solid had a big sale to celebrate their new website. Well I couldn’t just let that pass me by. “Oh I’ll just order one,” I thought to myself. I decided to get the GlowFill my son and I had tried out the week before. Just like bronzeFill. Instant love.

3D Printing - Fun with GlowFill
I placed an order for GlowFill. And then like five minutes later, I placed another order. That’s how fast I found more things (4 more things to be exact) that I coveted. That shipment has arrived, but I still yearn for NinjaFlex, WoodFill, a wider nozzle to better work with WoodFill, hdGlass, green PLA, purple PLA, on and on. I Still Want MORE!

The comedian Amy Schumer aptly described how she eats popcorn— the progression from “oh, I’ll just have a little” to “Gah!” and shoveling it in your mouth en masse.

That can easily become me and filament. : )

Future Experiment – Filament Coloring

I seem to have a never-ending supply of things I want to print and try. Here’s another one for my formidable list!

Today I read a Make magazine article entitled “Automating a Filament Colorizer to a 3D Printer” (via the 3D Printing reddit). As soon as the article loads, you see a lovely piece of 3D Printed art by Tom Burtonwood that is sporting gradients of multiple colors.

Make Screenshot - Automating a Filament Colorizer to a 3D Printer

I marveled at the piece, scrolled down and was shocked to see how he did it. He used Sharpies! We have a ton of Sharpies in the house! I’m quite familiar with their vast array of colors as I have to routinely confiscate them from my four year old (and try my best to convince him he wants to use “kid markers” instead).

And although I once doodled with a Sharpie on a 3D Benchy print, it never occurred to me to take that Sharpie to the filament before it goes through the printer. It’s an interesting notion. I might have to give it a whirl one day.

One day. : )

Print Diary – July 15, 2015

Amateur Hour
My morning print could be aptly described as “amateur hour”. I decided to make another stab at my two color cardinal. I had a busy workday, so the print wasn’t my top priority and I did note my filament had come uncoiled as I put it on the machine, but I didn’t think much of it. I got the print started, confirmed the first layer was going well and then I directed my attention to some programming projects.

All of a sudden I noticed the infill of the cardinal, which is usually quite smooth, was very much NOT so.

3D Printing Cardinal Amateur Hour - What's Up With That Infill

It was shortly there after, I noticed that all those loose coils had worked themselves in a nice, extruding-thwarting, knot.

3D Printed Cardinal Amateur Hour - Knot in my Filament

I was able to undo the knot and the print resumed. Now, I have seen first hand how the quality and quantity of the infill can impact your top layer.

I was printing at 0.10 mm layers and at this point, I knew I had enough layers for my bird to recover. I felt that he would still end up with a smooth body and head. And I was right! Sure enough, layer by layer, the surface smoothed out and was looking rather fine.

But then…. ANOTHER KNOT.

Seriously! I let the exact same thing happen AGAIN. You would never guess that I spent 10 years working on Quality Control Software. You would never guess that I have heard of phrases like “corrective and preventative action”. : )

Anyway, at that point, I was just two layers away from one of my visible surfaces. I knew the bird would not recover.

But I let the print continue.

Failures in life (and 3D Printing) can also be “Learning Opportunities”. In this case, I wanted to see how my wing detail later in the print would look. It didn’t matter how shabby the rest of the bird looked. I would still be able to assess whether my “peeks of black” were going to be effective in the wing. The overall print would be a fail, but I would still gain some knowledge.

Experiments with Wing Detail
Later in the afternoon, I decided to give the cardinal another whirl. This time I made sure I wasn’t sloppy with my filament. And to keep the learning going with the print, I decided to play with the print lines in the wing.

I remembered seeing the “Owliver Belt Buckle” by Shapeways Designer Michael Mueller in Grey Polished Steel a while back. One of the things that really struck me about the design is how amazingly the print lines added to the feather effect.

Although I was working in plastic, it occurred to me that perhaps my feather detail could also benefit from some changes in the print lines. Perhaps instead of the straight lines on the wing, something like concentric lines that followed the contour of the feather/wing would look nice. But I wanted to keep the body-as in. I wanted to keep the diagonal straight lines there.

This experiment was easy to set up in Simplify3d. For more detail instructions, I suggest referring to their Different Setting for Different Regions of the Model Tutorial.

Quick synopsis – You use the Cross Section View to determine the actual height of where you want to make setting changes. Then you set up multiple processes (aka Settings). In the Advanced tab you can define the scope of the settings– where they should begin and end.

MultiProcess-FindingTheHeight MultiProcess-StopHeight

Quick note– I didn’t test it out in Simplify3d v3.0.0, but in v2.2.2 I had to be careful to turn my fan on for the first layer in my second batch of settings (because it isn’t actually a first layer– it just thinks it is)

Another multiprocess note- I have seen a bug with these multi-processes and rafts. I have not tested to see if it is corrected in v3.0.0

With my wing settings, under the Infill tab, I changed my External Fill Pattern to Concentric.


When the print was done, I was able to decide which External Fill Pattern I liked best in the wing.

Playing with Print Lines - Rectilinear
3D Printed Cardinal Amateur Hour - Rectilinear Wing Infill
Playing with Print Lines - Concentretic
3D Printed Cardinal - Amateur Hour - Concentric Wing Infill

Conclusion: The original! I liked the original rectilinear better. Does that mean I wasted my time? Nah… at least now I know*. : )

*I’m paraphrasing Barnacules Nerdgasm here (from his BronzeFill polishing experiments).

Print Diary – July 14, 2015

M2 Lubrication
Today I did something scary (for me). My comfort level is more in the modeling and the software side, but the MakerGear M2 was due for some monthly maintenance. According to the documentation I received with the printer, I needed to:

Clean the X and Y linear rails, and the Z leadscrew, of grease, then apply a fresh coat to each – a dot of white lithium grease in each of the long grooves on the X and Y rails, and a dot in four consecutive troughs of the Z leadscrew; once applied, move that axis through its full travel multiple times to spread the grease.

Okay. So first step. I needed to confirm what I thought was the X and Y rails and the Z leadscrew was accurate. With that, I did some poking in the M2 Assembly Instructions. My conclusion seemed accurate (I’m happy to consider evidence to the contrary).

M2 Lubrication - Rails and Leadscrew

The M2 What’s in the Box manual that shipped with my printer helpfully had pictures of the Lithium Grease and the Applicator, so I knew exactly what supplies to use.

M2 Lubrication - Supplies

I did my dabbing.

M2 Lubrication - Z Leadscrew M2 Lubrication - Y Axis

Then I opened my Simplify3D, went to Tools->Machine Control Panel and then clicked on the Jog Controls tab. I used the various X, Y, and Z movements to move the printer around to spread the grease.

M2 Lubicration Process Via Simplify3D

It turned out to be pretty easy and not very scary at all.

Cardinal Progress
I did a test run of my two-color Cardinal. With a item like this, the point of focus is going to be on the top, so when I slice in Simplify3d, I give some scrutiny to the my top level (As opposed to say a 3D scan of a person– there the top of the object isn’t the center of focus). I noted with my cardinal there was an oddity in the top.

Top Layer - Cardinal - Why This Section

Even though that section was going to be all red, I didn’t want that odd texture in the mix. I wanted a nice, smooth surface for viewing pleasure. I’ve seen this issue before and I knew what I was up against– I didn’t have a completely flat surface where I wanted one.

I opened my modeling software back up (Blender) and the issue was I had a number of vertices that weren’t exactly the same as the others of that level. In the example below -0.00933 instead of 0. This caused the surface to not be exactly flat and when it came to slicing time, the printer has to translate that into layers. To adjust for the non-flat surface, part of the cardinal’s chest did not go as high as everything else.

Top Layer - Vertices

I adjusted my vertices to make them exact and make a nice flat surface. When I sliced again you can see the difference.

Top Layer - Much Better

My test print is coming along. The cardinal is cute, though this doesn’t represent my vision. He’s supposed to have red on his wing with just snippets of black poking through. I had a lapse of concentration during the last filament change to red and ended up mucking up the exchange by going the wrong way on the Z axis.

3D Printed Birds - Chickadee Has a Pal
The Chickadee and His Friend

Live and learn! Tomorrow is another day and another print. : )

Print Diary – July 13, 2015

Today in my printing adventures. Most of my endeavors were focused on printing multiple colors on the single extruder machine.

Victory Pictures of VT Logo
My first practice run was right before the July 4th holiday, I made a quick VT medallion in OpenSCAD using GlennLo’s awesome Virginia Tech Logo model. A couple of my Facebook friends commented positively on the item so I mailed a few out over the weekend.

Today, my friends were kind enough to post pictures of their new arrivals. It made me smile to see.

VT Arrivals

Modelling a Cardinal
Another multi color project I took on was making myself a chickadee. It was simple and cute and I’m smitten with it (I do have a version with legs that I printed last Thursday).

Now that I know how to do multicolor prints on our MakerGear M2, I'm plotting ways to make myself a chickadee (I'm thinking 3 colors - white, black and grey) #3DPrinting #3DModeling My 3 Color Chickadee Experiment on the MakerGear M2- Take 1.  My silver filament is a little translucent so I think I need to add some extra layers there.  Overall, pleased!  #3DPrinting

My Chickadee– Three Colors on the MakerGear M2

I decided I need some other birds to keep it company. I have aspirations of making a variety of species and maybe making a wreath. Over the weekend, I went through my Mom’s bird book and I have a bunch I’m eyeing. Since last week, I just got a shipment from PrintedSolid of new filament and one of the colors is Traffic Red, the cardinal seemed like a good option. It’s not the most intricate modeling, so I squeezed a little of bit of Blender work in here and there while the code for my day job compiled.

I’m excited about the wing detail. I’ve carved out some feather detail to show a peek of the black underneath. I think it’s going to look mighty fine.

Work in Progress - Cardinal